Ha­rass­ment and a fail­ure of lead­er­ship

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

IT IS as­ton­ish­ing that al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing and sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Ire­land have been known to Arts Min­is­ter Heather Humphreys and her depart­ment for years, but no ac­tion has been taken to pro­tect the women fac­ing what they de­scribe as ‘bul­lies and per­verts’.

In one in­stance that high­lights the prob­lem, Adri­enne Cor­less – whose mother Cather­ine re­vealed the Tuam ba­bies scan­dal – found her con­tract was not re­newed in the af­ter­math of al­le­ga­tions she made to her su­pe­ri­ors.

For­mer di­rec­tor of the mu­seum Pat Wal­lace rather un­der­states the prob­lem when he says there was ‘an out­break of un­re­strained misog­yny’ there, and adds that women he used to work with have told him the cul­ture is still preva­lent. That, frankly, is scan­dalous.

Mean­while, the Taoiseach claimed that de­spite a ma­cho cul­ture in Le­in­ster House, there is no sex­ual ha­rass­ment. But women work­ing there say not only the con­trary, but that they are fear­ful of speak­ing out.

Stephanie Re­gan in­ves­ti­gated the claims at the mu­seum in 2011 and says Min­is­ter Humphreys, and those around her, have done ev­ery­thing in their power to en­sure the al­le­ga­tions are not pub­licly aired. This comes on foot of Ms Humphreys’s pledge not to de­fund the Gate The­atre de­spite the al­le­ga­tions against for­mer boss Michael Col­gan – stat­ing they’re a hu­man re­sources mat­ter for the bod­ies in­volved.

This is patently non­sense. These bod­ies are funded by the Depart­ment of Arts, Her­itage and the Gaeltacht, so they are funded with our money.

The Gov­ern­ment can­not sit back and al­low a per­va­sive cul­ture of sex­ism and misog­yny, of ver­bal and sex­ual abuse, per­sist. They can­not tol­er­ate any in­sti­tu­tion that al­lows women to be ex­posed to the whim of pow­er­ful men who run pub­lic bod­ies as if they were pri­vate fief­doms.

We have been told the Har­vey We­in­stein reve­la­tions were a water­shed mo­ment that em­pow­ered women all over the world to stand up and say ‘me too’. That might be the case, but we must re­mem­ber they are the van­guard. More women – and, in­deed, men – will speak out.

It is what we do next that will de­fine us, and what is re­quired is clear lead­er­ship and a gen­uine com­mit­ment to let women speak with­out fear of ret­ri­bu­tion, and to pro­tect them from toxic mas­culin­ity in the work­place.

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